Minutes of meeting with Cala Homes

23 July 2015 12.30-1.30pm at Cala House, Solihull

  • Attendees:

    Richard White, Land Director, Cala Homes
  • Richard Everest, Technical Director, Cala Homes
  • Ita Curtis, Chair, BGRA
  • Andy Holmes, Vice-chair, BGRA

BGRA asked about the works taking place on Bittell Road under the railway bridge, which had necessitated 4-way temporary traffic lights. These lights had caused considerable delays as they coincided with the ongoing closure of Hewell Lane, which was due to re-open in a fortnight’s time.

Cala responded by saying they had asked Severn Trent to carry out the work, and Severn Trent in turn would have applied for a ‘Section 50’ to allow the road closure. Cala would have requested the approximate timing for the work (as they are ultimately working to a deadline to provide social housing) but they have no influence over the actual timing of the closure, and this would have been approved by the council. AH said that he had already asked the County Council for their reasoning behind the closure, and would chase this. RE also pointed out that these works were just the first part of a number of required roadworks on that stretch, as the pavement would be moved to the other side of Bittell Road amongst others. It was noted, though, that this would likely take place after Hewell Lane had re-opened, alleviating some of the traffic congestion.

BGRA asked about the apparent difference in the access road to the site (off Fiery Hill Road) and the access road as depicted on the original plans (still available on the BDC website)

Cala responded by showing plans for the junction that have recently been modified. They say that they submitted this variation to BDC six weeks ago, but had not received any response from them. The plans show a significant change to the road layout as approved previously by Bromsgrove Council. (At the time of writing, these plans were NOT available for consultation on the BDC website). Cala say the changes are driven by technical requirements by Worcestershire County Council who would eventually adopt the road. The changes to the plans show a much less shallow (almost imperceptible to the untrained eye) deviation in the route of Fiery Hill Road as it approaches the junction, and the carpark is moved to the opposite side of the road. The carpark also has extra spaces (at 28). Cala state that this junction layout continues to satisfy the criteria for visibility due to the way the corner has been modified and the pavement moved to the other side under the railway bridge. This would explain the location of the ‘new’ entrance into their site off Fiery Hill – for which they have permission under a Section 184 (temporary) order. If approved, as part of the change in application above, it would be confirmed by a Section 278 (amendment) order. It was also noted that these new plans would result in less disruption during building as the road is hardly being moved.

BGRA asked about the timeline for occupancy of the site, and whether the completion of the Fiery Hill/Kendal End junction was a prerequisite for occupancy.

Cala did not believe that completion of the Fiery Hill/Kendal End junction was a prerequisite for occupancy of the site. BGRA had heard the opposite and will follow up separately.

Marketing of the site would start in September 2015, but initially at a venue off-site (‘a hall about half a mile away’ would be used as a temporary marketing suite until the two show homes (plots 59 and 60) were complete). The first occupants of the site are expected to move in in February 2016.

BGRA asked about the operating model for the carpark.

Cala responded by saying the existence of the carpark was a planning condition that they had to satisfy. Their preference would have been for more houses. As no other public body, apparently, had shown any interest in taking on the running of this car park, they had no choice but to make it pay-and-display, and hand it over to the management company who would run the estate after completion. The management company would need their contractual arrangements agreed before marketing and selling began thus making the car park a time critical issue. Picking up on this point AH mentioned that the previous (acting) District Councillor had requested BDC took over running the car park and applied a ‘no overnight parking’ restriction, he had written evidence of this. This evidence would be passed to the current District Councillor. RE recommended this was done with some urgency, as they would need to have a legal contractual agreement with the management company for the site before houses were sold. The management company will ultimately be owned by 88 individual households.

BGRA asked about the amount of mud on the road, and whether anything could be done to reduce it. It was noted that the problem improved after anecdotal complaints at the start of the building, but that it had become worse again since.

RE responded by saying that the problem is difficult to manage, as they are either trying to clear up dust which lands over a large area, or mud. By cleaning up the dust, water has to be added and it becomes mud. They were unaware of any concerns here, but said that they would look into the severity of the problem. BGRA suggested that in addition to the daily cleaning routing, a ‘deep clean’ was undertaken once a week or fortnight.

BGRA asked about reports of Westpoint Construction operatives using grids and drains in other parts of the village – away from the site.

Cala responded by saying that they would have been using water mains to fill bowsers for use on the site. This is usual practice where mains water is not available, and reassurance was given that this water is paid for using a metered hydrant hose.

BGRA asked about the fact that the ‘no right turn’ restriction for construction traffic from the site seems to have been removed, and that it has pictorial evidence of lorries using Bittell Road (over the narrow canal bridge)

Cala say they were unaware of this, and that they would look into it – as they acknowledged that Bittell Road is not a sensible route for heavy traffic.

Outcome of meeting

BGRA has two approachable, knowledgeable, high-level contacts within Cala who, it is felt, will be able to answer further questions regarding the site.

It was agreed that the minutes should be made available, and actions taken to approach BDC to understand why the latest plans are not available for consultation (AH), and to chase the District Councillor for an update (AH). AH is also awaiting an update from Richard Dugdale at Network Rail about the timing for the re-opening of Hewell Lane, and a response from WCC over their allowance of the 4-way lights. Other action points are as detailed in the above text.

Note that since this meeting, the works under the bridge seem to have been prematurely curtailed, and the traffic lights removed.

Committee Meeting Minutes